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февраля 2009 года.
Kovalev says he wants to return to the Habs; GM reported ready to take star back // The Vancouver Sun.
The Alex Kovalev saga has more twists and turns than a best-selling whodunit.
In an e-mail to TSN's Darren Dreger, Kovalev has denied reports he told a Russian source that he was through with Montreal Canadiens. The Russian star also denied criticizing his younger teammates for excessive partying and said he wanted to return to the Canadiens.
The conflicting reports raised the question of whether Kovalev is ready to be part of the solution or if he is simply engaging in the fine art of covering his butt.
General manager Bob Gainey "suggested" Tuesday that Kovalev take a few days away from the team. At the time, Gainey told the media that the team didn't need Kovalev's services because of the way he was playing. Gainey said the situation would be re-evaluated Friday. It's believed the two talked Wednesday and that Gainey said he would welcome Kovalev back -- if his attitude was better.
Gainey's decision to leave Kovalev home has overshadowed a mini trip which wraps up tonight in Pittsburgh, but, if the controversy was a distraction to the players Wednesday in Washington, it didn't show on the ice.
The Habs lost for the 11th time in their last 14 games, but they felt that their 4-3 shootout loss to the Capitals was something to build on.
Gainey's handling of the Kovalev situation, meanwhile, once again proved that the general manager is the toughest person in the Canadiens' organization.
Many coaches and executives are afraid to offend star players, but Gainey made a bold move when he told Kovalev to take a few days off to recharge his batteries physically and mentally.
This was a decision that only a general manager could have made. Kovalev and head coach Guy Carbonneau have butted heads on several occasions and, if the coach had decided to sit Kovalev as a healthy scratch, the rift between the two might have been irreparable.
As it is, there are no guarantees that Kovalev will be a changed man if he does return to the Canadiens' lineup -- a scenario that appears iffy at best. But, by taking the initiative, Gainey has removed any reason for Kovalev to feel any additional animosity toward his coach.
Gainey has had some success in motivating Kovalev in the past and the question now is whether his career in Montreal can be salvaged. Gainey appealed to Kovalev's pride following a less-than-stellar 2006-07 season, but asking him to take time off and calling him out publicly indicates the depth of the team's discontent with Kovalev's attitude.
The best-case scenario would be a trade, but the Canadiens have been looking to move Kovalev since early this month and haven't found a taker.
TSN's Bob McKenzie reported Wednesday that Kovalev isn't on the block, but the trading market changes with each day leading up to the March 4 deadline and some team might see Kovalev as a short-term bargain.
The one certainty to come out of this week's bombshell is that Gainey has one less decision to make when he reviews his list of 11 potentially unrestricted free agents.
If Kovalev's stay in Montreal isn't already over, it will be on July 1.
Canadiens legends Wednesday weighed in on the controversy.
Yvan Cournoyer has been watching the Habs' struggles with a heavy heart.
"Kovalev needs a wakeup call, but he's not alone," Cournoyer said.
"Who are you going to put upstairs [in the press box]? The way the defence is playing -- it's the team completely.
"You win with everybody and lose with everybody. They choose Kovalev to sit out, but I see a few defencemen who should be upstairs, too."
Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur, from his Montreal-area restaurant, had this to say:
n "If I were in [Kovalev's] skates, I'd have played my last game for the Canadiens. No player with his talent would accept being humiliated like that. . . . I don't know what Gainey is trying to prove in front of everybody."
n "If you're paying guys $4 million, $5 million a year, give them the tools to make sure they'll produce. You just can't switch lines and try things every night and hope something will come out of it."
n "I don't think this club has a team spirit. They don't play for each other. They're not playing as a team and they're not ready to sacrifice themselves to win."
n "Hockey is not complicated, but they're complicating the game. They might say, too many games, they're tired. Forget it . . . they travel first class. We waited hours and hours in airports. [Expletive], they were talking about Denver, 5,000 feet above sea level, being tough for the players. Hey, that's [expletive]."
Kovalev, Lafleur said, should have been left on a line with centre Tomas Plekanec and winger Andrei Kostitsyn, one of the NHL's premier trios last season.